What to ask when you’re the reporter

Posted on December 16, 2009


When you pull out your keyboard to interview someone within or outside your group, the questions you ask will determine the impact of the article you write, whether it’s for a customer magazine, an internal newsletter, an awards submission or a marketing case study. Deciding which questions to ask can make the difference between a drab column and an insightful feature.

Of course, the specific questions likely will be different for every interview, but it’s useful to have a basic framework on which to build the set of questions that will elicit the story you want to write. The following framework can serve as a starting point in developing your interview questions and can help you guide the interview subject through the crucial subject areas:

1. What were the challenges/issues that led you to take/seek action (the “pain points” or opportunities)?

2. Why did you choose this approach?

3. What were the barriers you faced?

4. Describe the process you used or developed.

5. Who influenced this the most, and how?

6. What are the most significant impacts of this action/product/service/decision on people, customers and/or the organization?

7. How will this change things?

8. What will not change?

9. What specific results do you expect to see/have you seen, and when?

10. What are your plans for the future in this arena?

11. What tips can you offer to others?

12. Who else should I interview on this?

These 12 questions may lead to a dozen more as you prepare to explore a particular topic area, but this foundation may enable you to build a logical structure for your interview to help ensure that you capture the information you need.